Hi there, I’m Matt, your new resident photographer here at TBN.
Have you ever pulled out your camera to capture a breathtaking landscape only to be disappointed by the resulting photo? Well, I’m here to help you with that. I’m excited to get to know you and start sharing my passion and knowledge of photography with you but first, let me tell you how I got here.
Back in 2017, I left a career in engineering to chase a dream of becoming a professional photographer. In most circles, this usually elicits some question of why would I give up that security to start a business without knowing if it will be successful? However, I think that you will understand my choice.
Creating unique fine art landscape photographs for clients to display in their homes and offices is how I earn a living today, but that is only a small part of who I am. I’m also a son, brother, uncle, nephew, friend, boyfriend, conservationist, student, teacher, and volunteer among other things. These are the parts of my life that inspire me to keep moving forward and share what I see with others.
Growing up in southern Missouri shaped my love of travel and the outdoors. Most of my time was spent running around in the forests, up and down the hills and playing in the many rivers of the Ozarks. I also contemplated the universe at my “thinking spot” on a bluff overlooking a stretch of river and the hillsides beyond.
Like so many others, summer was for family vacations. Hitting the open road with my sister and parents opened my eyes to the wonder of the world beyond our little spot in the woods. On one of these trips, my sister and I got to see snow for the first time. In the middle of July on a roadside high in the Rockies, our family piled out of the rental van into the cold, white snow. With all the doors open we threw snowballs at each other, laughing and playing until our fingers were numb. Trips like this cemented my desire, at a young age, to see the world.
My formative years were a mix of art and science. I dabbled in art by drawing the world around me and copying pictures in magazines and comics I read. My dad was the driving force for me working on drawing. He had spent part of his career as a draftsman so he appreciated visualizing and creating sketches with pencil and paper. He encouraged me to take pride in my work and show that by signing what I created.
My mom was the photographer of the family. She documented our family trips and the other milestones of our childhood. She gave me my first camera, an old Canon Ftb-1 35mm. It was a tank of a thing, but that didn’t matter. That camera created new ways to capture the world from a new perspective.
Now, before you get the idea that I was some cool, artistic kid, the nerd in me was WAY more prevalent. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being outside, drawing and taking photos but I was also passionate about space. When I had a chance to see a space shuttle launch I fell in love with space exploration. I read everything about space, the history of rocketry, NASA, astronauts, etc.
When it came time to decide what field to study in college, I chose mechanical engineering without hesitation. The downside to pursuing a degree in engineering is a lack of free time. I put away the drawing tools and camera gear to focus on studies.
Earning my degree was rewarding, but NASA didn’t come calling, so I took a job for GM in Michigan. Soon after, I started taking night classes in black and white photography, learning to process and develop my own film as well as make prints. The love of photography was rekindled after a brief hibernation.
After a few years, I moved from GM to Cessna in Wichita, Kansas to fix broken airplanes. This move was a decision that took me around the world and gave me new opportunities to photograph unique locations. First, I was given the opportunity to live and work in China for two and a half years. Afterward, my assignments took me to India and Mexico teaching engineering to new employees. Teaching became the part of my job that I found most rewarding.
My First Taste of Freedom
When you work for a large company your work days are spent in cubicles. For me, two to four weeks a year of freedom wasn’t enough. Not a year went by that I didn’t use every available vacation day.
My first real taste of freedom came between my years at GM and Cessna. After a little more than three years, my time in Michigan came to an end when I “retired”. The company offered 50% salary paid over 10 months for anyone looking to choose a different path. So, at 25 with a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks for the next 10 months, what did I do? Well… travel of course!
One of my close friends also took the offer so we planned and set off on a six week, six-country tour of Asia and Australia. On that trip, I celebrated my 26th birthday by watching the sunrise over Sydney Harbor, Australia. At that moment, I felt a freedom wash over me I’d never felt before.
When this trip ended, instead of looking for a job right away, I moved back home to Missouri with my parents. Between traveling through the U.S. and doing chores around the house to help out I made sure to have a date night each week with my grandma. I’d stop by her house to watch tv and talk about life. These times were special because she passed away the following year. Her passing reinforced the importance of spending time with loved ones.
My time away from the cubicles lasted a wonderful 355 days.
Starting my own company was motivated by two key aspects; freedom to pursue passions and a desire to make a difference.
Time away from work clarified areas of my life that are important. I value the chance to share time and experiences with family and friends. Also, it reinforced my belief that taking care of the planet is important and all of us can make a difference if we choose.
Although motivated to have a sense of freedom and desire to make a difference, there was something holding me back from quitting a successful career. I suffered from a lack of self-confidence and belief in myself. I’m sure that this is something a lot of us struggle with, but it was necessary for me to overcome these negative views in order to move forward.
My journey is a bit unconventional. It actually started when I lost my father to cancer in 2012. His loss put me in a downward spiral that lasted for years. I was depressed and adrift, trying to numb the pain, shutting myself off from the world, and descending into darkness.
In late 2014 a friend was giving me a pep talk while encouraging me to apply for a job with his company. “You know you’re not normal, right? I mean that in a good way. Normal people don’t just teach themselves Mandarin while living in China. That’s pretty badass.” His words sparked something inside me. For the first time in years, I felt a forgotten sense of hope.
Through a series of coincidences, serendipity, or divine provenance, I found a therapist. Asking for help became one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Once a week for the next couple of years my therapist guided me along a path of self-discovery and healing. He challenged me to look at my demons in the eyes.
Little by little I climbed out of the darkness of despair and grief. With my therapist’s guidance, I started to feel again. Doing the work in therapy helped me to start liking the man I saw in the mirror every day. From “you know you’re not normal, right” to having confidence in myself was a painful path. However, I wouldn’t be writing this article without that journey. For that, I’m grateful.
I STRIVE TO SHARE THE WORLD WITH PEOPLE, TO INSPIRE A SENSE OF ADVENTURE, AND TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THE PLANET
With a new-found sense of confidence, I walked away from my successful career in engineering to be an entrepreneur and started my own company, Matt Chesebrough Photography. This change was both terrifying and exhilarating. On one hand, I was turning away from the stability of regular paychecks and the security they provided. On the other hand, I was taking a chance on myself for the opportunity to accomplish a dream of traveling the world to capture unique moments and landscapes.
As a landscape photographer, I have the chance to spend days and weeks exploring the wonders of the world. From the depths of the oceans to the top of mountains I’ve gained an appreciation for both the scale and fragility of the planet. This appreciation led me to incorporate giving of time, talent and treasure to conservation initiatives. In part, this is a selfish pursuit so that there are still beautiful landscapes to photograph, but also because I care about the future of the planet.
I strive to create art and share stories that inspire my audience to take a chance on themselves and pursue their own adventures. I believe that the world is an amazing place. It is made even better when we have a chance to share travel experiences with others. I work to share the stories and lessons learned from the photographs I share on my website, Instagram and now on TBN.
How I Want to Help You
My goal is to share my knowledge of photography with you so you can capture the one-of-a-kind moments in your travels and lives. I want you to be able to create work that you are proud of and cherish for years whether it’s from your cell phone, DSLR or anything in between It doesn’t matter if you know nothing about cameras or photography, I only ask that you are willing to be open to learning and teaching. I’ll challenge you to go beyond your comfort zones and share your work with the community.
Thank you for sharing your time with me. I’m excited to get started helping you learn to create photographs that make you proud. Let me know what you guys would be interested in learning in the comments below.
Featured image by Matt Chesebrough @mattchesebrough